Ever since she was a little girl, Amery resident Kelly Lathrop, 30, has been taught that giving back to others is just what you should do as a decent person.
"My mom has always instilled volunteering in us kids, so we have been trying to instill it in our nieces. My one niece, who was born premature nine years ago, collected stuffed animals and dropped them off at the hospital she was born at in the Cities," Lathrop said. "But it got so big that we were able to donate to the Amery Ambulance, the Amery ER, the New Richmond ER and were still able to donate 150 to the hospital. That was something she and I worked on. She talked to the principal at her school and her pastor at her church to set it up."
So when Lathrop received an email from Countryside Plumbing and Heating to say that she had been selected as the company's 2017 Bryant Community Hero and would be receiving a new furnace, Lathrop was positive that someone had made a mistake.
"I had no idea that I was even nominated for the award. I thought that their email had gotten hacked, since I didn't think I should have gotten the email. I almost deleted the email," Lathrop said. "I was very overwhelmed when I realized it was real. I honestly thought that I should give it to somebody else because there are probably other people who need it and deserve it more. It is humbling to be selected and I just hope that, by getting this, I can inspire other people to either volunteer or get involved in other programs. Or do good deeds for other people."
Lathrop has worked at the Hair Company and Spa in New Richmond for the last five years and loves her job because it allows her to make other people feel better about themselves by the time they leave.
"We also donate a lot of haircuts for people in need, especially women going through cancer treatments. Helping with wigs, eyebrows and those different things to make them confident about themselves," Lathrop said. "That's why I got into this job: I love making people feel good about themselves. It is something you can't give someone, in terms of a gift or a product, to make them feel that way. The experience you give them and the way you make them feel when they are leaving is great."
Along with her love of making people feel better through her job, Lathrop is also a Kinship mentor in Polk County, a volunteer volleyball and softball coach, helps with the Hair Company's Run/Walk to raise money for the Little Blessings program and has been involved with the Amery Fall Festival for the last eight years.
"I'm super involved with my little girl. She comes to my family events. It is a great program," Lathrop said. "I recently told my Kinship mentee Mia, that I don't do this to get other things or to get recognition. I do this because, in the instance of my Kinship child ... I don't have any kids so I'm doing this because I want to and because I want you to experience these things that you haven't gotten to experience before."
Unlike most years, Countryside won't be installing the furnace this winter, because Lathrop will be having a new home built in the spring on her great-grandparents' property in Amery.
"As always this was not an easy process to select one, but with the volunteer help of three great community leaders, they used my scorecard (also attached) to rate them on a scale of 1-5 in four categories and allowed me to make an unbiased selection," said Countryside Plumbing and Heating president Carol De Young. "That is the nice thing about this program is giving away a furnace, since there is no cash value to it, so she can't cash it in and donate the money. She gets the furnace. Not everybody needs a furnace, but luckily it works out that she needs one and we are happy to reward her.
"We enjoy being involved with this program. I think people want to hear good news and heartwarming stories, especially around the holidays. We are proud to be part of it."